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Cultural Brokerage in Pre-modern Islam

cultural brokerage

Cultural Brokerage in Pre-modern Islam

September 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021

Organizers:

Uriel Simonsohn (University of Haifa)
Luke Yarbrough (UCLA)

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Research Group Assistant: Alon Ben Yehuda

Islamic civilization is a term used to describe a set of shared cultural, confessional, and social ideas, institutions, practices, and conventions, all positively related in some manner to Islamic revelation and the notional community of Muslims.  It took shape over many centuries following the formation of Muhammad’s community in the seventh century and, to an extent, is still undergoing change. Recent studies on different aspects of Islamic civilization have challenged the notion of a linear formation ex nihilo and advocated instead that we think in terms of processes by which diverse cultural phenomena took on an Islamic coloring. Thus, in contrast to an image of an emerging Islamic civilization that sprang up in a particular location and time, a revised interpretation offers a dynamic by which Islamic civilization was informed by cultural polycentricism and pluralism, and which multiple groups and traditions took part in molding. Islamic civilization, therefore, did not originate, but began when diverse cultural traditions entered into dialogue with Islamic history; it took on variegated interpretations in diverse social settings and has remained multifaceted to this day.

This revised outlook, however, does not rule out moments of exchange, borrowing, influence, or hybridity, but rather broadens the scope of inquiry by suggesting alternative forms of cultural motion. It is in the course of these processes that a variety of individuals played decisive roles as the human vectors through which cultural commodities of different sorts were gradually integrated within (and disseminated from) Islamic civilization. Such individuals acted as cultural brokers, a term derived from anthropological and historical literature, where it refers to individuals who serve as mediators between what are often (though not always) distinct social and cultural groups. They served as conduits of cultural transmission by transferring, mediating, embodying, and exchanging various social and cultural capitals,e.g., spiritual authority, erudition, kinship ties, legal capacities, and more. Yet their roles, intriguing in themselves, also highlight the complex nature of the societies they inhabited and the subtlety of intergroup relations. The proposed research group seeks to address the role of cultural brokers in premodern Islam; in particular, to identify the different types of brokers (courtiers, converts, communal leaders, women, missionaries, merchants, holy individuals, etc.); the circumstances which facilitated their activities (intellectual encounters, translation requirements, bureaucratic services, technological exigencies, trade and travel, enslavement, etc.); and the cultural outcomes or products of those activities (the availability of information and its types, literary enterprises, poetic styles, technology, urban planning, architecture, etc.). 

We thus propose to assemble a group of leading specialists in Classical Islamic history whose scholarly concerns are related to the social and/or cultural aspects of cultural brokerage. Our intention is that this collaborative endeavor will allow for a fruitful investigation into the circumstances that facilitated multidirectional cultural brokerage around the edges of Islamic societies, the type of cultural commodities that were brokered, modes of reception and impact of brokerage, and the correlation between historical phenomena and the activities of cultural brokers.

 

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Behavioral Ethics Meets Corporate Governance: Paradigm Shift?

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Behavioral Ethics Meets Corporate Governance: Paradigm Shift?

September 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021

Organizer:

Adi Libson (Bar-Ilan University)

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Research Group Assistant: Barak Or

 

Over the last few years, there has been a growing academic interest in the field of behavioral ethics: people’s ethical biases in decision making. This scholarship has focused on the behavioral mechanisms that explain why ordinary unethicality is so common among people who view themselves as law-abiding individuals.

A recently published book by Professor Yuval Feldman (2008) systematically explored the far-reaching implications of this literature to the legal field: Instead of assuming that its primary target are "bad people" which the law must deter from maximizing their own self-interest, the law should aim to address "good people." These changes require a better understanding of the mechanisms which cause good people to do wrong. Better understanding will also lead to better ways of addressing this problem, by designing the situation in ways which would reduce people’s unethicality, such as verifying they have fewer justifications to behave unethically or ensuring they have a clear view of who are they harming.

The proposed research is aimed at examining the interaction of the behavioral ethics literature with the legal field which provides the most fertile ground for its acceptance: corporate law and governance. The corporate context serves as a 'perfect storm' combining and exacerbating several aspects emphasized in the behavioral ethics literature that lead individuals to act wrongly, such as doing things for the benefit of others, diffusion of responsibility, remoteness of the victim and contagiousness.

Furthermore, addressing the issue of conflict-of-interests and agency problems is central to the field of corporate law. As such, the understanding that a central way for curbing conflicts-of-interest is by increasing the saliency of the conflict-of-interest in the eyes of the agent may have far-reaching implications in the realm of corporate law and completely alter the arsenal of its tools. In many instances, such an analysis may reach opposite conclusions to that of the conventional law and economics framework on the effectiveness of certain instruments in curbing conflict-of-interest problems. Are independent directors an effective tool for monitoring conflicts-of-interests? How significant should be the role of fiduciary duties in dealing with the agency problem? What effects does the group dynamics of boards have on the monitoring of conflict-of-interests? Two types of implications of behavioral ethics on corporate governance will be examined: structural implications and procedural implications.

The central goal of the group is to facilitate a reciprocal engagement: examining the possible contribution of behavioral ethics to the corporate governance literature and the contribution of corporate governance to the organizational psychology literature. Behavioral ethics has many potential implications for corporate governance and can yield various feasible policy applications. Legal corporate scholars can also contribute to behavioral ethics scholars, by providing real-world contexts and suggesting additional experiments which can validate experimental findings in the field of behavioral ethics. This is an important contribution to the behavioral ethics literature, which faces a serious challenge concerning the extent of its external validity.

 

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Research Groups: Convergence and Divergence in Pentateuchal Theory: Bridging the Academic Cultures of Israel, North America, and Europe

[RG # 134] Convergence and Divergence in Pentateuchal Theory: Bridging the Academic Cultures of Israel, North America, and Europe

Sept. 1, 2012 - July 1, 2013

Organizer:

Bernard M. Levinson (University of Minnesota)
Konrad Schmid (University of Zurich)
Baruch Schwartz (The Hebrew University)

 

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The Pentateuch lies at the heart of western Humanities, and the question of the formation of the Pentateuch represents one of the foundational topics in the discipline of academic bibilical studies. Despite its importance to the discipline, recent scholarship on this question has become increasingly divided on fundamental questions like dating, the existence of literary sources, and the role of authors or editors in shaping the final document. In effect, three separate academic cultures have emerged, those of Israel, Europe and North America, each promoting its own model, and without sufficient intellectual exchange between scholars in the various communities regarding their own assumptions. Our research group was created to address this problem, to bring about greater dialogue among leading proponents of the different scholarly models, and to move towards a shared discourse.

 

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Research Groups:Neo-Aramaic Dialectology

[RG # 135] Neo-Aramaic Dialectology: Jews, Christians, and Mandeans 

Sept. 1, 2012 - July 1, 2013

Organizer:

Steven Fassberg (The Hebrew University)
Simon Hopkins (The Hebrew University)
Hezy Mutzafy (Tel Aviv University)

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Aramaic is an endangered language, more precisely, a group of languages, that is on the verge of extinction. First attested in inscriptions from Upper Mesopotamia, northern Syria, and northern Israel at the beginning of the first millenium B.C.E., Aramaic has been spoken uninterruptedly up to the present. A century ago Kurdistan (Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish) and Iranian Azerbaijan were home to Jewish and Christian speakers of Aramaic, who had lived in these regions for over two millennia. 

Aramaic is still spoken today in three villages near Damascus (Ma'lula, Bax'a, and Jubb'adin) by Christians as well as Muslims (who converted over the past centuries from Christianity). Persecution and massacres have severely shrunk the already small native Aramaic-speaking population, and the surviving speakers have fled their original habitat and settled elsewhere, where their speech has been heavily influenced and gradually supplanted by other languages. Today, as a result, competent native speakers of most dialects are both scarce and elderly, and few of them live in a community where Aramaic is still used freely. Within a generation or so, almost all dialects of vernacular Aramaic will disappear.

This unfortunate state of affairs requires immediate action, and the goals of the research group are:

(1) To refine further the existing classifications of Neo-Aramaic dialects
(2) To exchange already collected but hitherto unpublished data in an effort to elucidate grammatical, lexical, and etymological problems
(3) To reconstruct in greater detail the historical depth of the Neo-Aramaic dialects
(4) To record additional unstudied dialects of Jewish Neo-Aramaic speakers in Israel

 

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Research Groups: Patterns and Processes in Organizational Networks

[RG # 133] Patterns and Processes in Organizational Networks

September 1, 2012- February 1, 2013

Organizers:

Yuval Kalish (Tel Aviv University)
Amalya Oliver (The Hebrew University)

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Organizational networks are collaborative systems between organizations that are structured to achieve certain goals. The principle rationale behind organizational networks is that no single organization can achieve its stated outcome by itself due to resource constraints. The resources that are gained from the networks are funding, capabilities, knowledge and learning, legitimacy, consulting and more. While organizations need to collaborate, there are additional factors that hinder these collaborations. These include competition, knowledge protection, free riding, opportunism, inertia, lack of trust and fragility. All these elements are embedded in the process of collaborations and are not well developed in the literature.

Organizational network research is based on sociological and strategy system theories coupled with advanced statistical and algebraic methods on the one hand, and qualitative case studies and egocentric approaches on the other. This area, while witnessing significant growth over the past several years, was mainly characterized by cross-sectional approaches (one-time measurements). The group will focus on areas that are, as yes, not well developed in the general network research fild, and specifically within the overall organizational network domain, i.e. naming patterns of organizational network processes. We have identified three main directions in organizational research - learning networks, temporary network systems and development of networks. Examples of complexities and tensions associated with processes within networks are those that exist between collaboration and competition, innovation and inertia, stability and fragility.

 

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Research Groups: The Influential Child: The Role of Children's Psychobiology and Socialization in Development

[RG # 136] The Influential Child: The Role of Children's Psychobiology and Socialization in Development

March 1, 2013- August 1, 2013

Organizers:

Maayan Davidov (The Hebrew University)
Ariel Knafo (The Hebrew University)

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The research group is comprised of developmental psychologists who have decided to explore a unique perspective within the field of child development: the influential role of children. This perspective is unusual, because the bulk of the research on children's development focuses on how the environment affects the child, not the other way around; our group has set out to examine the opposite direction of influence. This is an extraordinary, unprecendented opportunity for a team of developmental researchers to focus in depth on how children affect their social environment and actively influence their own development.

 

 

 

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Research Groups: Contextualizing the Cult of the Southern Levant in the Greco-Roman Period: Monotheism and Polytheism between Continuity and Change

[RG # 139] Contextualizing the Cult of the Southern Levant in the Greco-Roman Period: Monotheism and Polytheism between Continuity and Change

Sept. 1, 2013 - June 30, 2014

Organizers:

Oren Tal (Tel Aviv University)
Zeev Weiss (The Hebrew University)

Research Groups:Galicia: Literary and Historical Approaches to the Construction of a Jewish Place

[RG # 142]  Galicia: Literary and Historical Approaches to the Construction of a Jewish Place

March 1, 2014 - July 31, 2015

Organizers:

Ariel Hirschfeld (The Hebrew University)
Alan Mintz (Jewish Theological Seminary)

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Galicia, the subject of our Research Group, was an invented land, an artificial entity that acquired meaning over the course of its historical experience. Rather than being a land with a longstanding identity of its own, Galicia was created as a province of the Habsburg Monarchy as a product of the negotiations with Russia and Poland that led to the partition of Poland in 1772, and it ceased to exist as a political entity in 1918 with the defeat and dissolution of the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary and its incorporation into the new Poland.

The creation of Galicia and the incorporation of the Jewish communities of the Polish kresy (borderlands) into the new Austrian province meant enormous changes. Social and educational reforms issued from Vienna transformed aspects of Jewish life. Our research group aims not only to study the phenomenon of Galicia, but also to bring the disciplines of history and literature into dialogue.

 

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Research Groups:The Visualization of Knowledge in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods

[RG # 141] The Visualization of Knowledge in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods

September 1, 2014 - June 30, 2015

Organizers:

Marcia Kupfer (Independent Scholar, Washington DC)
Katrin Kogman Appel (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev)

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The production of visual models is a cognitive mechanism integral to thought. Their invention depends on the reciprocal interaction between mental imaging and strategies of textual and graphic mediation. Such devices as lists, tables, diagrams, charts and maps do not merely compile and communicate information but also have a generative power: they formalize abstract concepts, provide grids through which to process data, set in motion analytic operations that give rise to new ideas, and create interpretive frameworks for understanding the world. The medieval and early modern periods stand as a formative era during which visual structures, imagined or materialized, increasingly shaped and systematized knowledge. Yet these periods have been sidelined as theorists interested in the epistemological potential of visual strategies have defined the field of research in terms of the modern natural sciences.

The historical approach pursued by our interdisciplinary research team offers a corrective to the current scholarly trajectory. As we analyze the fundamental principles underlying visual modes of conceptualization, we will also investigate the cultural parameters that modulated diverse applications in Jewish and Christian societies. At issue are the specific ways in which visual schema function in religious and scientific discourses, how intellectual agendas and spiritual values across confessional and cultural divides might lead to analogous or different types of devices, and the impact of exchange or appropriation on the reception and circulation of particular solutions. The chronological, geographical, and civilizational scope of our collective enterprise is unprecedented.

 

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Interpretation as a Generator of Religious Law: A Comparative Perspective

[RG # 140]  Interpretation as a Generator of Religious Law: A Comparative Perspective

Sept. 1, 2014 - June 30, 2015

Organizers:

Rami Reiner (Ben Gurion University)
Vered Noam (Tel Aviv University)

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Interpretation plays a pivotal role in the making of law, occasionally an act of its very construction. Recent scholarship has applied various hermeneutical theories to the study of authoritative legal-theological texts, and noted the impacts that post-modern approaches to interpretation may have on their investigation.

Our research group is a joint venture to explore the potential of research into the relations between the interpretive dimension and the development of Jewish tradition, from the first centuries CE up until the Middle Ages, against the broad background of similar problems and challenges with which scholars of other religious cultures (such as early Christianity, early Islam, and Hinduism) grapple. The group consists of four scholars of Jewish exegetical literature, one who is additionally an expert in jurisprudence at large, and three who are engaged in the research of law and exegesis in early Christianity, Islam and Hindu philosophy and literature. The group will examine the relationship between the exegetical and the legislative viewpoints in this wide scope of cultures and eras, both diachronically and synchronically, both as a literary and as an ideational phenomenon.

 

 

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Cosmopolitan Spaces in an Urban Context: A Case Study of Odessa, 1880-1925

Odessa

[RG # 163] Cosmopolitan Spaces in an Urban Context: A Case Study of Odessa, 1880-1925

March 1, 2020 – July 30, 2020

Organizers:

Mirja Lecke (Ruhr University--Bochum)
Efraim Sicher (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev) 

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The research group offers a new interdisciplinary perspective on cosmopolitanism and urban spaces in Odessa. The group will explore the interstices and crossovers as well as demarcations between Jewish, Russian, and Ukrainian culture in the period 1880-1925, using Odessa as a case study. We will employ the notion of cosmopolitanism as a critical tool for understanding the concrete spatial processes of cultural production and identity negotiation in an urban context. Odessa was mythologized as unique, but may also be a model case for studying other cities with large ethnic minorities in early twentieth-century Eastern Europe.

 

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Variety and Variability: Mapping the Cultural and Social Diversity of the Southern Levant in the Hellenistic Period

Maresha Athena Rhyton1

[RG # 162] Variety and Variability: Mapping the Cultural and Social Diversity of the Southern Levant in the Hellenistic Period

March 1, 2020 – July 30, 2020

Organizers:

Adi Erlich (University of Haifa)
Uzi Leibner (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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The establishment of the Hellenistic kingdoms at the beginning of the third century BCE ushered in a new era in the Southern Levant. Although political and cultural ties across the Mediterranean are evident much earlier, the growing dominance of the Greek language and culture in the region is remarkable. Syria Coele and Phoenicia were inhabited by a mixed composition of peoples—Jews, Samaritans, and various pagan groups—each interacting with each other and with the local and foreign Hellenistic regimes.

Scholars often describe the interaction of the region with the Hellenistic culture as polarised, debating the degree to which it became integrated in the Hellenistic koine instead of viewing it as an integral part of it. The study of the Hellenistic Levant has generally been applied to one part of the region only or to the area as a whole without offering a comparative analysis of the different groups therein.

We therefore will create an integrative study of the different parts of the region and peoples by mapping the cross-cultural encounters of the local traditions and the koine in each as well as among these groups. We plan to examine these parameters comprehensively, from the archaeological, historical, epigraphic, numismatic and artistic perspectives, and by using the vast amount of new data found in recent years as well as taking a fresh look at the historical sources. The growing corpus of evidence will allow us to gain new insights into the peoples living in this important region in a crucial and formative era.

 

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Constitutional Transplantations

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[RG # 161] Constitutional Transplantations

November 1, 2019 – January 31, 2020

Organizer:

Anat Scolnicov (University of Winchester, UK)

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This project will examine transplantation of constitutions and constitutional ideas from one country to another. Such transplantations have occurred both voluntarily (such as in Eastern Europe post-communism) and by imposition (such as in Japan after World War Two). This phenomenon raises both theoretical and practical questions. These include the role played by the existing culture and history of the country in receipt of constitutional provisions and ideas, and the extent to which external as opposed to internal constitution-making can lead to successful constitutional reform, particularly in the areas of democratisation  and human rights protection.

A basic question looms: Is the endeavour of constitutional transplantation a worthy, or even a worthwhile, one?  The replication of the constitutional text does not and cannot result in a replication of the constitution itself. The resulting constitution is a product of history, culture and religion as much as it is a product of the text.

Further questions emerge: When do constitutional transplantations succeed in producing the anticipated outcomes, and what are the conditions for that? Is it to the role of judges to affect constitutional transplantations? How can judges in their decisions justify borrowing from other constitutional systems? Do some constitutional systems provide a better template for transplantation than others? Can constitutional transplantation lead to democratisation and better protection of human rights?

Discussion of certain conceptual questions relating to this transplantation is currently missing in the literature. Such discussion has not just theoretical importance, but has important lessons for countries currently undergoing constitutional transition and reform (such as Nepal and Myanmar).

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